Thursday PM September 14th, 2006

Anadarko Petroleum selling Canadian subsidiary...Family of one of 15 killed in BP Texas City explosion settles...Dell to develop factory in southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu...

Houston-based Anadarko Petroleum said today it's agreed to sell its Canadian subsidiary to Canadian Natural Resources Limited. The sale of Anadarko Canadian excludes Anadarko's interests in the MacKenzie Delta and other Canadian Arctic frontier properties. Anadarko is selling the subsidiary for about $4.24 billion and says said the sale will help it reduce debt and refocus its portfolio. Anadarko is one of the nation's leading independent energy exploration and production companies. Last month, it completed two major acquisitions. It bought Oklahoma City-based Kerr McGee for $16.4 billion and Denver-based Western Gas Resources for $4.74 billion. The transaction is expected to close by the end of next month, subject to normal closing conditions and purchase price adjustments.

The family of an engineer who was among 15 workers killed in a BP plant explosion in Texas--has settled with the energy giant. Jury selection is set to begin next Wednesday in Galveston in the first civil trial stemming from the March 2005 deadly blast in Texas City. BP lawyers have asked for a continuance. A judge is expected to decide tomorrow on whether to grant the motion. The settlement reached by BP and the family of Ryan Rodriguez, who worked for contractor J.E. Merit, BP facing trial for just two of the deaths. Attorneys for the family of James and Linda Rowe, who were in a trailer near the explosion at the Texas City plant, said they still intend to take the case to trial. Details about the Rodriguez settlement weren't immediately released.

Packaged-food maker Conagra Foods today announced plans to close five manufacturing plants--including one in Fort Worth--eliminating about 400 jobs. The Omaha-based company says it expects to save about $100 million in fixed costs annually starting in fiscal 2009 by closing the plants, with most production shifting to other units. The other plants that are closing include: Archbold and Rossford, Ohio; Folcroft, in Delaware County, near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Laval, Quebec. Conagra's tomato paste plant in Helm, California will also operate only on a seasonal basis, with production increasing at the Oakdale, California plant.

A leak investigation that could spawn criminal charges against Hewlett-Packard's top brass extended beyond its board of directors. Chairwoman Patricia Dunn has told HP's employees that the probe she ordered into media leaks also targeted two HP workers and people outside the company, including journalists. Private investigators used illegal methods to root out leakers, including impersonating board members to get records of their home phone calls. A spokesman for California's attorney general says he could file criminal charges within a week. The federal government is also investigating.

Dell signed a deal today to develop a computer factory in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The world's biggest personal computer maker says the deal with the state government aims to help serve new clients in the fast-growing computer market. Round Rock-based Dell says it expects to begin manufacturing in India by early next year. It says the plant will focus initially on producing desktop computers, which make up about 70 percent of Dell's current business in the country. The new facility and related operations will be located at a 50-acre site at a technology park just outside the state capital Chennai--formerly known as Madras. Dell has a market share of just seven percent in India and lags largely because of taxes that result in higher prices for its products. The Indian government imposes higher import taxes on fully assembled computers than computer parts, and Dell currently ships complete computers to India. A plant in India would help the company lower its tax bill, improve delivery time and cut logistics and transportation costs.

A Mississippi federal judge has refused to dismiss two lawsuits alleging a Texas engineering firm and two engineers falsified Hurricane Katrina damage reports. The lawsuits accuse Houston-based Rimkus Consulting Group and engineers Thomas E. Heifner and Gary L. Bell faked the reports to benefit insurance companies. U.S. District Court Judge L.T. Senter, Jr. of Gulfport, Mississippi says the lawsuits against the company and the two men will go to trial. In the two separate cases, homeowners contend that engineer Ken Overstreet examined their properties and submitted reports saying Katrina's winds caused 50 percent or more of the damage. But the lawsuits say Rimkus, Heifner and Bell altered the reports to blame the damage on storm surge so the insurance companies would not have to pay the claims. The lawsuits seek recovery of insurance proceeds and punitive damages. The defendants deny any wrongdoing.

The Texas Attorney General's Office is suing to stop a Killeen-based firm that claims to protect property owners from land seizures for the Trans-Texas Corridor. The firm is called You Can't Take It. A company attorney says it planned to charge customers to develop commercial projects on their land that would increase property values. The property owner could then fight eminent domain by claiming that the commercial use of the land would create more tax revenue than if the land was seized for public use. The attorney, Hale Stewart of Houston, says a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling made tax revenue from a new project a factor in whether a condemnation under eminent domain is viable. Attorney General's spokesman Tom Kelley says the state contends that "nothing the group is doing is legal.'' He says the state seeks both temporary and permanent injunctions against the business. Company owner Lou Ann Fuller said the business and its Web site have been shut down.

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